National Depression Education & Awareness Month!
As we move into the 8th month of learning to live with the Covid-19 virus, many of us continue to struggle with symptoms of depression emanating from the physical distancing and the many other losses we have experienced, including amongst others the loss of loved ones, loss of employment, inability to be with loved ones when they are sick or in the hospital, inability to give and receive hugs, and the changes to regular pleasurable activities that might have included going to the movies or taking an in-person yoga class with our favorite teacher.
There are many positives that are occurring during this time too, yet it can be difficult to focus on them when caught in the throws of depression. As my husband has been known to say “Not every day can be a home run”, it’s when more days than not that we feel like we struck out that becomes concerning.
According to the National Institute for Mental Health, “Depression is one of the most common mental disorders in the U.S.” There is no one cause for depression, yet it often stems from family history, major life changes, trauma, and/or stress, biological or other environmental factors. It impacts all people, regardless of age, race, ethnicity or gender, although prevalence rates are highest amongst adults identifying as two or more races.
Depression is typically treated with a combination of psychotherapy, medication and brain stimulation therapies.
Below I provide intention-setting ideas that might prove helpful to you or your loved ones when moving through depression:
- Breathe. Try Breath of Joy each morning. Standing with your feet a little wider than your hips, arms by your side to start. Take a 3-part inhale, raising both arms out in front of you on the first part of the inhale, moving both arms out to the sides at heart level on the second part of the inhale, and raising both arms to the sky on the third part of the inhale (YES, like you are conducting an orchestra), and then, as you exhale open your mouth, make a loud sighing out noise, as you swing your arms down along the sides of the body, fold the body over towards the ground while bending your knees. Repeat these steps while taking 3-5 more breaths. Afterwards, come back to standing with your arms along your sides, drawing your awareness to your hands, becoming aware of any sensations that might be present, while allowing your breath to return to a natural rhythm. Sense into how you can feel your energy moving!
- Set One Daily Goal. Make one goal that is especially meaningful to you. Start out small, knowing you can grow it if and when you are ready. Perhaps it is to make your favorite cup of tea in the morning and allow yourself 15 minutes (or more) to simply sit and enjoy drinking it. Or perhaps it is to use your mala or prayer beads to allow yourself to sit for 5-10 minutes saying your prayers first thing in the morning or the last thing before bed. Or it might be to read your favorite book or read the book that you have been meaning to read, but haven’t gotten to. And, the most important part is to give yourself a pat on the back when you accomplish your goad and NOT beat yourself up when you don’t. Be kind to yourself and simply set the goal again for the next day. Maybe the goal changes to simply be kind to myself!
- Be active. Exercise not only moves our body but also moves our e-motions (energy in motion). So, although it may be difficult or even feel impossible on some days to get up and move, moving helps! Walking as little as 15 minutes a day can help shift our energy and release some of the weight of depression. Gentle yoga is perhaps another option to try and, thanks to the pandemic, you don’t even need to leave the house to attend a virtual class.
- Reach out. The symptoms of depression tend to encourage us to withdraw and stay isolated, thinking that we don’t want to burden others with what we are going through. However, being with others helps us feel better and is one of the best coping strategies for moving through depression. And we don’t always have to put on our “happy mask” either. When we allow ourselves to be vulnerable and share our experiences, often we discover we are not alone in our challenges and, through sharing, we validate not only our experiences but the experiences of others. Humans were designed to feel good when helping others, so allow others to help by listening to us when we are not having one of those “home run” kind of days.
- Gratitude journaling. Practicing gratitude has been shown to increase our sense of peace and happiness. Again, when trying to identify what you might be grateful for, think small. This is another practice that will begin to grow as you continue to practice it. Some of the most mundane, routine things might begin to look and feel differently when sprinkled with gratitude. My most favorite items to add to my journal are: running hot water, a bed to sleep in, a roof over my head, and my furbabies who love me no matter what! I’d love to hear back from you what some of your favorites might be!
As always, if you try any of these intention-setting ideas for holistic health, I would love to hear about the impact they might have had for you. Please send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org to share!